Speed Reads

Crisis in Iraq

In Iraq, U.S. bombs ISIS, Prime Minister Maliki attacks new Iraqi president

U.S. fighter jets and unmanned aerial drones attacked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters on Sunday, destroying at least three military vehicles on the border of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq and helping Kurdish peshmerga fighters retake two towns. U.S. military officials said the strikes were partly to help protect U.S. consulate personnel in Erbil, the nearby capital of Kurdish Iraq, and warned that U.S. airstrikes alone can't defeat ISIS.

In Baghdad, another type of battle is flaring. Early Monday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made an unscheduled television appearance to accuse newly chosen President Fouad Massoum of committing "a clear constitutional violation," essentially not nominating him for a third term as prime minister. Maliki said he would sue Massoum, an ethnic Kurd, for not choosing a prime minister from the largest bloc in parliament — Maliki's — before a Sunday midnight deadline.

At the same time, Maliki deployed loyal special forces to guard government building and other strategic sections of Baghdad, Iraqi police said. The prime minister has "gone out of his mind, and lives on a different planet — he doesn't appreciate the mess he has created," a senior Iraqi official tells The New York Times.

Maliki has lost the support of the U.S. and many Iraqi lawmakers, even from his own party, not just because of the ISIS insurgency but also because his policies are widely viewed as favoring his Shiite constituency at the expense of Iraq's Kurds and Sunni Muslims. The deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, said that a bloc of the largest Shiite parties is close to nominating a new prime minister.